FOCSA Building

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FOCSA Building
Edificio Focsa-La Habana-Cuba.jpg
General information
Type Residential
Architectural style Modern
Location El Vedado
Address 17 y M
Town or city Ciudad de La Habana
Country Cuba
Coordinates 23°08′34.4″N 82°23′02.7″W / 23.142889°N 82.384083°W / 23.142889; -82.384083Coordinates: 23°08′34.4″N 82°23′02.7″W / 23.142889°N 82.384083°W / 23.142889; -82.384083
Construction started February, 1954
Completed June, 1956
Cost 7,000,000 pesos
Owner CMQ Radio TV Network
Height 121 meters (397 ft)
Technical details
Structural system Wall and slab
Material 7000 PSI concrete[1]
Size 11" wall, 6.75" slab
Floor count 39
Floor area 830,000 square feet (77,000 m2) (res)
Lifts/elevators 4 tenant + 2 service
Grounds 110,000 square feet (10,000 m2)
Design and construction
Architect Ernesto Gómez Sampera, Martin Dominguez
Developer FOCSA
Engineer Sáenz, Cancio & Martín
Structural engineer Luis Sáenz Duplace
Services engineer Gustavo Becquer, mechanical Fernando H.Meneses, electrical
Civil engineer Bartolome Bestard and Manuel Padron
Other information
Number of rooms 374 apartments
Parking 500 cars

The FOCSA Building was built from 1954 to 1956.[2] Named after the contracting company Fomento de Obras y Construcciones, Sociedad Anónima, it is 121 metres tall and located in the Vedado section of Havana.[1] The structural engineer was Luis Sáenz Duplace, professor of engineering at the University of Havana and of the firm Sáenz, Cancio & Martín. The architects were Ernesto Gómez Sampera (1921–2004) and Martin Dominguez. The civil engineers were Bartolome Bestard and Manuel Padron. Gustavo Becquer and Fernando H.Meneses were the mechanical and electrical engineers respectively.[1][3]


View from the bar-restaurant "La Torre", on the FOCSA's 33rd floor.

The building is located on a site bordered by Calles 17 and M and Calles 19 and N in El Vedado.[3][1]


In 1952 the CMQ Radio and TV Network located at Calle Rampa and M in El Vedado planned to provide administrative offices, a radio station and housing for employees. CMQ selected a 110,000 sq. ft. plot of land costing approximately 700,000 pesos.[2] The company Fomento de Hipotecas Aseguradas (FHA) financed 80% of the cost of the residences and 60% of the commercial shops. El Banco Continental Cubano granted a credit of 6 million pesos.[3]

Work began in February 1954 and finished in June 1956. At the time of construction it was the second largest residential concrete building in the world, second only to the Martinelli Building in São Paulo, Brazil.

In the early 1960s middle-class owners of residential floor units had their properties nationalized by the current government. In the 1970s the building housed Soviet and Eastern bloc specialists and advisors and the ground store supermarket was for non-Cubans only. In 2000 an elevator cable snapped killing one person. In the 2000s the building was repainted and renovated and much of the building was given over to temporary housing of foreign guest workers, primarily from Venezuela.

A penthouse in the FOCSA was used as the apartment of the protagonist Sergio Carmona Mendoyo, played by Sergio Corrieri, in the film Memories of Underdevelopment, a 1968 film written and directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea.[4]


Reinforced concrete columns support the podium and the stories below. The residential block, the 'Y,' is supported by thirteen eleven inch walls. Additional concrete massing at the center of the Y, apartments F and G, resist lateral forces. The walls extend to support the corridors. The wall and slab structural system form a three dimensional lattice resisting horizontal forces. A high strength concrete mix from 3,000 to 7,000 psi. was used.[1] The tower and corridors show prefabricated panels on the exterior.

The building was chosen in February 1997 by the Unión Nacional de Arquitectos e Ingenieros de la Construcción de Cuba (UNAICC) as one of the seven wonders of Cuban civil engineering.[3][5]

Distribution Layout[edit]

Section-diagram showing programmatic distribution

The FOCSA has 39 floors 6 of which are dedicated to commercial use, two of these are for parking. Twenty eight floors have thirteen residences each. One floor, the twenty ninth, has six penthouses and one tower apartment, three are three extra apartments in the tower above the thirty-fourth floor for a grand total of 374 apartments. Each penthouse is the size of two apartments (A+B, C+D, E+F, etc.) and they are located on the thirty fourth floor which acts as a plinth, made possible by the structural walls which stop below this floor. They have a dedicated elevator and patio-courtyards open to the sky. All apartment floors are terrazzo on cinders.[1]

There are two swimming pools and a club at the podium level. The site may may be divided into three parts: 1- A shallow, mixed use “wall and slab” Y of 35 floors above a base. 2- The podium of outdoor amenities including swimming pools and a club for guests and tenants covering the entire site. 3- Four floors of building services, commercial spaces and parking for 500 cars located below the podium [5][1]

Apartments are one half level up or down from the corridors. A typical floor contains 13 apartments, five have two bedrooms and a maid's room. The cost of the apartments was $21,500 for the larger units in the center and $17,500 for the smaller ones. It was stipulated that an additional $30 per each floor was charged the higher up in the building the unit was located, the highest apartments were the first to be were sold.[3]

Located in the tower, are the building's four tenant and two service elevators and two sets of stairs. One of the service elevators is dedicated for the restaurant and the observation floor. The other service elevator is for the apartments and is linked to the service corridors. The tower also contains offices on the 37th floor for the restaurant, “La Torre,” on the 38th floor and an observation room on the 39th floor.[5]

The podium contains a clubhouse, offices and swimming pools for adults and children. It has gardens, lighted paths and benches. There is a ramp to the street located at the corner of 19th and M, the podium was used as a staging area during the construction of the project.[5] Below the podium at the fourth level are building offices.[1]

Marked by a two lane covered porte-cochѐre at street level is the building's entrance. Inside is the desk, waiting area and tenant elevator lobby. The restaurant “El Emperador” and a supermarket and a bank, post office, theaters and two radio stations are also on the ground floor. (COCO and Radio Metropolitana)[6] Various cafes situated around the perimeter of the site along a double loaded corridor traversing the site from Calle M to N. Light filters to the interior corridor from openings in the podium.[5]


The corridors are separated vertically by twenty inches for apartment ventilation and views.[3] There are three sets of corridors every other floor. The center corridor, services four floors and have dedicated stairs and elevators. The other two longer corridors are for tenants. The service and tenant corridors are unrecognizable from the exterior, except the service corridors are shorter in length, this reflects the location of the service stairs of the end units, A and L. Service and tenant corridors are located at different heights. From each apartment, the exit stair goes up to the tenant corridor and down to the service corridor or vice versa. There was initially a private elevator to each apartment (X on plan), these were never installed.

Western View[edit]

The FOCSA offers a new typology in residential single loaded corridor design with its twenty inch separation between corridors allowing for cross ventilation of the apartments and views to the other side of the corridor.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Fox, Arthur. “Concrete Apartment House 39 Stories High.” Engineering News Record 7/1955:34-37. Print.
  2. ^ a b "El edificio Focsa y sus orígenes". Retrieved 2018-07-15. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Juan de las Cuevas Toraya, published in – visited 2/2010
  4. ^ Falcon, Olga. Chapter IV, Page 301, Illustration 45. "Urban Utopias in Havana's Representations. An Interdisciplinary Analysis", Middlesex University, London. September 11, 20118
  5. ^ a b c d e The Majestic FOCSA Building, August 2, 2011
  6. ^ "Radio Metropolitana". Retrieved 2018-09-06.